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11 May 2018

SC stays online nominations

TT, New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday restrained the Bengal election commission from notifying the results in 20,000-odd rural poll constituencies where Trinamul candidates won unopposed and stayed a Calcutta High Court order permitting some online CPM nominations.

The court said the commission should ensure the May 14 polls were conducted in "absolute fairness, keeping in view the concept of purity of an election in a democracy". The observations follow Opposition allegations about lack of security, intimidation by ruling party activists and blocking of nominations of its candidates.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said it was "worried" about the manner in which the 20,000 odd candidates were declared winners unopposed, as well as the high court order asking the state poll panel to accept the online nominations.

"What is worrying us is the high court order directing e-filing of nominations and the fact that 34 per cent of the candidates have been declared elected unopposed," CJI Misra observed. The "results in respect of constituencies where there has been no contest shall not be notified without the leave of this court" till the next hearing on July 3, the bench said.

The top court was hearing an appeal of the poll panel against the high court directive to allow the online nominations, passed after CPM complaints that its candidates were stopped from submitting papers by Trinamul activists last month.

Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the poll panel, told the bench that "the order passed by the high court is absurd and cannot be complied with", and claimed the ruling mandated that there need not be any scrutiny of such e-nominations.

CPM counsel Ashok Bhan objected to Dwivedi' appearance on behalf of the election commission, saying he was also the Bengal government's lawyer in various matters. The commission, being an independent body, cannot be represented by the state counsel, Bhan contended.

Bhan said the high court order was passed in the wake of widespread criticism of the manner in which the 20,000-odd seats went uncontested. He said the apex court should not stay the order as the Bengal government was determined to "subvert democracy and the Constitution".

BJP lawyer P.S. Patwalia said since the high court was seized of the matter, the top court should not entertain the panel's plea. But CJI Mishra said there were no statutory provisions for online nominations and the high court shouldn't have passed the order.

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